Making conception fun
Going at it like rabbits but still no bunny in the oven? Lizzie Catt – who spent a year trying to conceive – says the ultimate trick was not to lose her sense of humour
The prospect of making a baby is a rather merry one – lots of nudge-nudge, wink-wink comments about ‘practice’ with your other half, the thrill of chucking the contraceptive pills in the bin, and that giddy feeling that you’re teetering on the edge of a big adventure...
However, for those who don’t find themselves up the duff straight away – and I include myself and husband Will in this group – the glimmer of excitement can turn dull pretty quickly, replaced by charts, apps and a love life that’s as much of a chore as putting the bins out.
Most women would agree that, during the act itself, any passive-aggressive berating of your other half for coming home late from work on ovulation day is a bit of a passion-killer (sorry, Will!) – and yet many of us end up in this trap. So, what can we do about it?
For me, the thought of a honeymoon baby was very romantic – especially after months of wedding planning accompanied by the very loud tick-tock of my biological clock in the background as
I approached my 36th birthday. I was keen to get cracking, but friends who’d been pregnant brides assured me that driving your sober self and your drunk new husband home from your own wedding reception is no fun, so I waited until we’d touched down in Mexico – already dosed up on folic acid and purged of the pill – before I threw out the contraception altogether.
PROBLEM: Planning a wedding is basically a very tense stand-off between you, your family and friends, and a host of people who’ve built businesses out of things like charging £12 a pop to hide ugly chairs under big silly bows. You need a holiday to recover from it all, and that shouldn’t involve conception-maximising post-coital leg lifts.
SOLUTION: A honeymoon baby is romantic only when conceived in a haze of lurve and sunstroke under a tropical moon. By all means throw caution to the wind and see what happens, but do not, under any circumstances, start talking about cycles, watching your cocktail intake or refusing to try the lobster being waved under your nose by your besotted other half because of ‘the baby’. Go crazy! Do it on the beach! Maybe you’ll make a baby and maybe you won’t, but hopefully one day you WILL be parents and then the idea of a booze-fuelled romp on a stray sunlounger will seem like an impossible dream.
You want me to monitor my what?
Despite our best efforts, all we came back from honeymoon with was mozzie bites and a taste for midday margaritas. It was time to start taking things a little more seriously than counting out days of the month on my fingers, so I Googled, ‘When am I fertile?’ An easy way to find out, assured several websites, was to monitor my cervical mucus. I’m no prude and it’s very useful advice, but I’ll let nhs.uk explain that one.
PROBLEM: Trying to conceive can be really... biological.
SOLUTION: Getting in tune with your body is important, and this little trick for knowing when you’re most fertile is a good one. However, while it’s right that couples share this journey together, there’s no need to go to town on all the anatomical detail just yet. At least let him think that you’re dragging him off to bed because you really can’t resist him in his sweaty five-a-side kit.
Yep, there's even an app for that
When I still wasn’t pregnant a couple of months later, Will found an app which had, apparently, helped friends conceive pretty much before it had finished downloading. I was possibly even more excited than the day I got my hands on Instagram’s collection of amazingly forgiving filters. With technology in control of our baby-making destiny, I’d surely be knocked up in no time.
But it wasn’t to be. In fact, I soon came to hate that app, which demanded I stuck a thermometer in my face as soon as the alarm went off at 5.45am to see if I was ovulating. Will would come back from the shower to find me passed out and drooling; thermometer lying redundant on the pillow. And guess what else the app wanted to know about? Yep, cervical mucus.
PROBLEM: There can be few greater turn-offs for your partner than finding you standing over the bed when he’s just closed his eyes for another ten minutes, thank you very much, saying things like, ‘Would you describe it as an egg-white consistency?’ and, ‘If I don’t leave soon, I’ll miss the train.’
SOLUTION: After a few months of feigning enthusiasm for insemination via the App Store, I shoved the thermometer in the back of the drawer and refused to divulge any more personal data. ‘You only want me when there’s a 0.2 degree rise in my basal body temperature!’ I pouted coquettishly, and thus ended the reign of the app. Charting what’s going on with your body is a damn sight cheaper than most other conception aids but, unless you’re a really organised morning person with zero inhibitions, you may end up with a useless chart that simply reads, ‘Zzzzzzz – ewww!’ With hindsight, I’d advise insisting that the app is on your phone, not his, as well as banning the term ‘egg-white consistency’ from the bedroom. And everywhere else.
Who need apps, anyway? I enlisted the help of a rather whizzy fertility monitor. Will may have taken more to the app, but I got quite obsessed with this little white gadget – a fertility sergeant major with his army of wee-stick soldiers.
PROBLEM: These contraptions are great – in fact, I do think ours helped me get pregnant – but there’s nothing alluring about having your after-dark manoeuvres dictated by a machine that you slot wee wands into. And no matter how open you are with your other half, ‘I’ve piddled on the stick and the scary egg picture came up on the screen – take me tonight!’ is not the kind of sext anyone wants to receive in the middle of a meeting.
SOLUTION: By all means employ the finest technology you can find if it sets your mind at rest, but remember to keep some sense of perspective – becoming a slave to the screen won’t make you happy. Only an idiot would, say, leave the 2013 Brit Awards early because the fertility monitor told them they needed to be procreating on the other side of London, even though they’d spent £40 having their hair done up for it. Ahem. Having said that, our daughter was eventually conceived at the behest of the monitor and to the romantic cry of, ‘I don’t care if you’ve got the flu, I’m not doing this again next month!’
The monthly grind
Will would be the first to testify that I was not the best at coping with waiting to get pregnant. So, as king of the online voucher, he’d surprise me with the odd slap-up meal here and sneaky mini-break there, allowing us to behave like newlyweds again.
PROBLEM: Staying chipper takes its toll.
SOLUTION: When sex becomes about procreation and nothing else, it’s time to take action. Book in a few date nights when you’re not fertile and make sure you get lucky! You may not be able to control if and when you conceive, but you can still prance around a heavily discounted four-star hotel room in your wedding knickers.
When I grumbled to a friend that I felt like a baby-making machine – a misfiring one at that – she recommended an acupuncturist, mindfulness course and conception nutrition book. I also stepped up sessions at the gym to make sure I was match-fit. Warning: this approach has its pitfalls. I became pregnant while on a massive nutrition mission and still can’t look at a blanched almond without dry-retching.
PROBLEM: Waiting for a positive pregnancy test can make you feel helpless.
SOLUTION: Getting my mind and body ready for pregnancy, whenever it happened, gave me a sense of control. It doesn’t matter what method you choose, but acknowledging the stress you’re under, then boosting your energy, endorphins – and perhaps your buttocks – will help you purr like a kitten instead of hissing like a moody moggy.
Second time lucky
Ready to do it again? Trying to get pregnant when there’s a small child – or two – in the house can be a drag, especially when said child still wakes up in the night demanding milk or needing Calpol for an never-ending procession of new teeth, then insisting on sleeping in Mummy and Daddy’s bed.
PROBLEM: If you don’t want to miss your fertile days, you’re going to end up having sex on the landing.
SOLUTION: Wahey – you get to have sex on the landing! That’s hot, isn’t it? Who needs a sunlounger on a tropical beach?